San Francisco, Berkeley & Sausalito

Trip Start Mar 01, 2009
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of United States  , California
Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Three nights in San Francisco yielded rich urban experiences I had forgotten were possible, since my time in New York City.  Sensory stimuli increased exponentially and getting lost in the panorama sidewalk circus was easy.  While in the city, we were guests of the ever generous and laid back, Tico, in the Outer Sunset.  Arriving late on a Friday night, we were delighted when Tico guided us to a great, energetic restaurant in The Mission, called Bereta.  A young, loud crowd seated at long tables in a dark, cozy room lit by chandeliers (think King Henry the 8th style banquet) and jumping with conversation and hip audio vibrations.  The fare, however, was anything but medieval.  No hearty flailing of ragged mutton shanks here.  We revisited The Mission several more times before departing, taking advantage of cheaper, but very good tacquerias, checking out the old Mission San Francisco de Asis and Tartine (a chic little bakery recommended by ex San Fran resident, Sara). 

We covered a lot of ground a pied, my favorite way to explore a new location.  Sunday morning, we drove into Chinatown amidst hyperactivity.  Fish flopped on damp, cold sidewalks in front of small shops packed with familiar and exotic delicacies.  Dim Sum shops and restaurants were packed, and we squeezed into a hole in the wall to sample really good and cheap dim sum (3 for $1.40) in one of the dozens of shops.  We met up with John's childhood friend, Greg, his wife, Nikki, and their son, Wesley, for lunch at the somewhat rowdy, but fun and tasty, House of Nanking.  Fortunately, we were able to catch-up further with Greg and Nikki a few days later, at their lovely home in Berkeley (more later).  While still in the city, we walked from Chinatown to the Embarcadero, along the Bay and through North Beach.  We spent some time browsing City Lights Bookstore located next to the old Beat haunt, Vesuvio, now abutted by Jack Kerouac Way, a colorful alley whose concrete is lined with engraved, inspirational quotes from the author, himself and others. I got my chocolate fix at Ghiradelli, where manufacturing is no longer underway, but where the original Ghiradelli shop existed and several sundae shops and cafes still operate on site.  The free samples were great!  A random walk through various sections of the immense Golden Gate Park led us to the Chinese Pavilion and Japanese Tea Garden, both soothing to city jangled nerves.  A morning and afternoon in Upper Haight took us to The Old Vic for some refreshment, past restored Victorian houses, Tibetan arts and crafts boutiques and Fancy Bong shops.

After spending a night with friends in Berkeley, we shuffled around the summertime quiet, UC Berkeley campus and out to the Gourmet Ghetto, where we lunched at Chez Panisse, Alice Water's famous bistro, known for fresh, local, organic ingredients.  I ordered a green bean, cauliflower, red pepper and walnut creation that was the best salad I've ever had.  Typical, unorthodox John shocked our prissy, lunching lady neighbors into comment, by ordering espresso ice cream with caramel sauce and chocolate cherry waffers for his first and only course.  What fun! 

Despite such pleasant diversions, my mood was suffering, so when we saw a YMCA, we stopped and I fit in a workout, which picked up my depressed spirit, and may have contributed to my clear and buoyant experience of Sausalito.  A beautiful, Marin County town situated across the bridge, just north of San Francisco.  Houseboats just make sense here; the water is an irresistible draw.  We came, we saw, but didn't stay.  Too pricey and the open road beckoned. 

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